Anna Tunnicliffe (center) is no stranger to Olympic sailing gold, and next summer in London she will attempt a repeat performance. However, unlike her solo victory in Beijing in 2008, Anna will be stationed alongside teammates Molly Vandemoer (right) and Debbie Capozzi (left) on an Elliott 6m keelboat.
In addition to sailing, all three athletes competed in other sports in high school. According to Anna, “Molly was an avid swimmer, Debbie played softball, basketball, tennis, and ran track, and I ran cross country and track, and swam.” In fact Anna still holds the record from her high school in the 800m at 2:17:53. For the 2008 Olympics, Anna supplemented her fitness by training for and competing in a half Ironman distance triathlon, and more recently she has added 5K races to her training with a PR of 19:00.30.
In spite of living in three different states, Debbie, Anna, and Molly typically train together for three weeks out of each month and in some cases, work together for five weeks before returning home. Recently the three teammates began training at CrossFit 847 in Evanston, Illinois.
Patrick Curtis, Co-Owner CrossFit 847, has been working closely with the team. “All three women bring incredible spirit and drive to every workout, lifting the intensity in the entire box – their energy is contagious. It is truly a rewarding experience working with them and witnessing how CrossFit improves the work capacity and conditioning of even the most elite athletes in the world.”
On behalf of her teammates, Anna agreed to share a bit more about their sport, training, and keys to success.
For those of us whose exposure to sailing may be limited to watching the America’s Cup or perhaps a sailing lesson while on vacation, how would you describe racing with a 3 person crew on an Elliott 6m?
The type of racing we do is similar to the America’s Cup, racing one other boat at a time. The format of the regatta is similar to the soccer World Cup. We start in groups, then the teams with the best records advance onto the quarters, the semis, and then the finals. Racing on a sailboat is about everyone being able to do their jobs, understanding the game, and having a fluid flow of information about the race course. Everyone on board must know what the wind and waves are doing and how we can position ourselves against the other boat. The Elliot is a very physical boat. The maximum weight allowed by the crew is 150lbs, and you want to be as close to that weight as possible
What are the make-or-break competitive moments within a race?
There are many important parts of the race. The obvious important part is the four minutes before the race starts. This is a four minute period where the two boats position themselves against each other to try and get a better start than their opponent so that they will have control for the first part of the leg. During this time, a boat can get a penalty, which cannot be taken until the race has started. The races are usually very close and it comes down to who can execute the play and counter play with the best boat handling through it all, while sailing cleanly.
How have you used CrossFit in your training program? And how much time do you spend on general physical fitness training vs. sport specific training?
Our races are approximately 15 minute sprints and depending on the wind strength can require anything from finesse and agility, to high cardio and strength. While our team is new to CrossFit, we believe the mix of strength, mobility, and conditioning at CrossFit 847 is producing a great foundation to enhance our performance in the boat. We generally spend 5-6 days a week working out between cardio and weight training, in addition to the 3-5 hours we spend on the water.
What are the various non-team member components that are critical to your success (sponsors, equipment providers, family, etc.)?
Our sponsors, Maclaren, 11th Hour Racing, Carmeuse, Chicago Match Race Center, and Trinity Yachts, and our US Sailing Team Alphagraphics and team sponsors, play a huge part in our campaign. We can’t do what we do without them. Their support allows us to spend more time focusing on our game versus having to worry about searching for the money to pay for it. Also, my mum is our agent/manager, so she is able to take care of a lot of the business side of our campaign, again so we can focus on our sailing. Our families are also very supportive, and Molly and I are very lucky to have husbands who understand the time required to train at this level. It’s a lot of time away from home, and their support is much appreciated.
Best wishes for success in 2012. The CrossFit community will be cheering for you.